In Your Community Q&A

“Tell Your Story” Facebook Contest: Janis Kendall at Consumers Energy

Posted on October 29, 2014. Filed under: Community, Community Profiles, Corporate Giving, employee, Grants, In Your Community Q&A | Tags: , , , , , , |

Consumers Energy employees care for our Michigan communities. Janis Kendall, a business technology systems integrator in Jackson, Mich., enjoys volunteering at Deacon’s Closet. Check out her volunteer story:

“Five years ago, I had no way of knowing how my personal coupon hobby would eventually have global impact. At the time, I simply appreciated a good bargain, and I was happy to teach others how to benefit from these techniques. 

Janis uses couponing to provide supplies to communities across the globe.

Janis uses couponing to provide supplies to communities across the globe.

As my coupon network grew, we realized we had a surplus of supplies that we could share with others. We found people in our community who were in need and grateful to receive these everyday living products that significantly decreased their personal expenses. This included supplying products to various community organizations that provide for the homeless and less fortunate of our community.

Beyond our own community, we’ve also provided supplies for disaster recovery in Haiti, and additional resources have made their way to Guinea, West Africa and New Zealand. A few months ago we learned of refugee families from Burma and Nepal who recently arrived in Chicago. By applying coupon strategies, my coupon network has filled “kits” that equip these refugee families to set up their homes as they adjust to their new life in Chicago. 

The out-of-pocket expense for a basic, one-family kit is $500, but couponing allows us to provide the same kit for approximately $50-$75. Generally, we’ve been able to take our own financial resources, as well as each year’s VIP reward, and multiply the money ten-fold to not only help people in our community, but to also help people around the globe. We feel blessed and honored to participate in this service.” 

Vote for your favorite “Tell Your Story” contestant on Consumers Energy’s Facebook page. The winner will be determined by the highest amount of likes, comments and shares on each volunteer’s video. Voting ends Nov. 21 at noon.

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“Tell Your Story” Facebook Contest: Debra McIntyre-Dodd at Consumers Energy

Posted on October 29, 2014. Filed under: Community, Community Profiles, Corporate Giving, employee, Grants, In Your Community Q&A | Tags: , , , , , , |

Consumers Energy employees care for our Michigan communities. Debra McIntyre-Dodd, a senior public information director in Howell, Mich., enjoys volunteering at Therapeutic Riding Incorporated. Check out her volunteer story:

Debra and her daughter volunteering at Therapeutic Riding Inc.

Debra and another volunteer assist at Therapeutic Riding Inc.

“I proudly volunteer for Therapeutic Riding Inc. (TRI) in Ann Arbor, which gives children and adults with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities (challenges) the opportunity to ride horses. While this may sound simple, there’s much more involved. These riders have a variety of diagnoses—autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, traumatic brain injury and many others. Riders come from seven different counties.

My daughter was the first to volunteer at TRI, and I never thought I would be capable emotionally of doing so. I felt sorry for the riders because it took so much effort for many of them to ride. Now, having volunteered for more than four years, I can honestly say I’m not sure who helps who. I love serving as a side walker to my riders, and look forward to working with them each week. I see the progress riders make in terms of:

  • Strengthening muscles
  • Improving balance
  • Improving social and communication skills as they continue to ride

And I know how much they look forward to that hour of riding and bonding with their horse. Their smiles are all the proof needed. I can also share that a personal bad day is always quickly put into perspective when you witness the mental and physical effort it takes for these kids (and their parents/guardians) to get to class and ride. They truly set an example of perseverance and dedication.”

Vote for your favorite “Tell Your Story” contestant on Consumers Energy’s Facebook page. The winner will be determined by the highest amount of likes, comments and shares on each volunteer’s video. Voting ends Nov. 21 at noon.

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“Tell Your Story” Facebook Contest: Randy Farrow at Consumers Energy

Posted on October 29, 2014. Filed under: Community, Community Profiles, Consumers, Corporate Giving, Education, employee, Grants, In Your Community Q&A | Tags: , , , , , , |

Consumers Energy employees care for our Michigan communities. Randy Farrow, a senior engineer in Owosso, Mich., enjoys volunteering at Morrice Area schools. Check out his volunteer story:

Randy Farrow reading to students of Morrice Area Schools.

Randy Farrow reading to students of Morrice Area Schools.

“I decided to become a school board member because I am committed to life-long learning and being actively involved in my community. I saw school board service as an opportunity to bring learning and community service together. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s not; but too often I see people shy away from school board service because they don’t want to deal with the challenges. I believe in what President Theodore Roosevelt said:

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

As the current school board president, I am able to advocate and promote high expectations that challenge students and staff, allowing them to experience the thrill of achieving a goal after working hard to do it.

During my four years of service, the district has:

  • Improved its fund balance from a dangerously low 3 percent to a healthy 13 percent
  • Increased student outcomes as demonstrated by the high school moving up the state’s top to bottom rankings from the 14th percentile to the 57th percentile

The improvements are the results of a lot of hard work to develop and progress toward the vision shared amongst the school board, superintendent and staff. The success we are seeing makes my service as a school board member gratifying.”

Vote for your favorite “Tell Your Story” contestant on Consumers Energy’s Facebook page. The winner will be determined by the highest amount of likes, comments and shares on each volunteer’s video. Voting ends Nov. 21 at noon.

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“Tell Your Story” Facebook Contest: Joel Woods at Consumers Energy

Posted on October 29, 2014. Filed under: Community, Community Profiles, Consumers, Corporate Giving, Education, employee, Grants, In Your Community Q&A | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Consumers Energy employees care for our Michigan communities. Joel Woods, a senior technician in Bay City, Mich., enjoys volunteering for the School District of Bay City Watch Dogs Program. Check out his volunteer story:

Joel Woods and his foster daughter.

Joel Woods and his foster daughter.

“Me and my wife have a foster daughter living with us. She is actually my wife’s cousin, whose mom lost custody of her. We took her in so she didn’t have to go into the system. We then became licensed foster care workers. We immediately became involved in her life, activities and school.

Hampton Elementary has a program called the Watch Dogs. It is a program designed around getting positive male role models into the school and spending the day there:

  • Tutoring kids
  • Helping out during class
  • Watching recess
  • Being visible as a male role model 

Many kids sadly have never had a positive male role model in their lives. Our foster daughter is included in that group. It is a really big deal when you are the student who has a Watch Dog at school. It brought my foster daughter and me much closer– it was the first time she gave me a hug and held my hand. Very rewarding program that does a lot to help kids out, especially ones who do not have a positive male role model in their lives.”

Vote for your favorite “Tell Your Story” contestant on Consumers Energy’s Facebook page. The winner will be determined by the highest amount of likes, comments and shares on each volunteer’s video. Voting ends Nov. 21 at noon.

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“Tell Your Story” Facebook Contest: Cindy Bateson at Consumers Energy

Posted on October 29, 2014. Filed under: Community, Community Profiles, Consumers, Corporate Giving, employee, Grants, In Your Community Q&A | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Consumers Energy employees care for our Michigan communities. Cindy Bateson, a field planner in Grand Rapids, Mich., enjoys volunteering at the Family Promise of Grand Rapids. Check out her volunteer story:

“There were at least 37,500 homeless students in Michigan and 2,009 in Kent County during the 2011-2012 school year.

Cindy and other Consumers Energy employees clean up a house and its landscape while volunteering for Family Promise of Grand Rapids

Cindy and other Consumers Energy employees clean up a house and its landscape while volunteering for Family Promise of Grand Rapids.

In 2009, I began raising funds and awareness and have partnered locally with Family Promise of GR. Many people are unaware that the face of homelessness has changed. It’s no longer the ‘man on the corner.’ It is a 9- year-old child. It is not a drug addict, it is a single mother who works for minimum wage and cannot find affordable housing. 

In 2012, I organized an event called ‘Out in the Cold’ where myself and other individuals stayed in our vehicles overnight. The event raised funds and goods, but more importantly it raised awareness in our community.

I have spent many Sunday afternoons at the day shelter:

  • Offering assistance where needed
  • Making thank you cards
  • Reading stories to the children 

A group of Consumers Energy employees spent an afternoon making cleaning supplies at the day center. Household supplies are a very costly necessity and this is a healthier, inexpensive alternative. We made

  • Fabric softener
  • Kitchen and bathroom cleaners
  • Recipes
  • Freezer meals

I also arranged for a local cosmetology school to provide haircuts to the children and families enrolled in the program. These families cannot afford haircuts for themselves or for their children.

This year, ‘Out in the Cold’ is back but in a challenge form! Stay tuned!”

Vote for your favorite “Tell Your Story” contestant on Consumers Energy’s Facebook page. The winner will be determined by the highest amount of likes, comments and shares on each volunteer’s video. Voting ends Nov. 21 at noon.

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Always On: A Day in the Life of a Consumers Energy Electric Construction Field Leader

Posted on August 27, 2014. Filed under: Company Operations, Consumers, electric, Electric Generation, Electric Safety, Electricity, employee, energy, In Your Community Q&A, reliability, Safety, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

Darrell Browning, a Consumers Energy Electric Construction Field Leader, doesn’t go to work for the money and status. It’s his commitment to serving others, problem solving and helping people reach their full potential that drives Browning to work hard every day.

Browning’s Background

Darrell Browning’s life purpose wasn’t always this clear. Growing up just outside of Detroit in the inner city of Mount Clemens, Mich., he was the youngest in a household of eight with one income. Although financially times were tough, his parents always made sure their family had what they needed to get by.

Browning also struggled with insecurities that prevented him from fitting in with other kids in school. Because his family couldn’t afford braces, Browning grew up with a negative self-image, resisting speaking up or even smiling. He also battled attention deficit disorder (ADD), which at the time wasn’t recognized as a disorder. His lack of attention span led to poor academics and increased discipline from those around him.

It wasn’t until adulthood that Browning’s mindset changed. He learned he had no control over the life he’d been given and if he didn’t become confident and accept who he was, he’d never reach his full potential and discover his purpose in life.

Check out a behind-the-scenes look at a Consumers Energy Lineworker Trainer!

Advice from Darrell Browning

Browning wants to encourage others to let go of their past and know everything they’ve gone through was meant to shape them into the people they are today. His tips include:

  • Understand it’s okay to be different—we’re all different
  • Stop comparing yourself to others
  • Surround yourself with people who help you grow
  • Accept challenges
  • Focus on developing yourself at your own pace and learning style
  • Seek out your strengths and build on them

Working for Consumers Energy, Browning has been able to exercise his personal values by treating people with the utmost respect. He demonstrates commitment, honesty and integrity to defuse any conflict for effective communication. Browning’s leadership increases the reliability of a job well done at Consumers Energy and we’re proud he shared his experiences.

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Consumers Energy Offers Protection Services to Senior Citizens, Enroll Now

Posted on August 21, 2014. Filed under: budget plan, Community, Consumers, electric, Electricity, energy, energy value, In Your Community Q&A, incentives, payment, Payment Assistance, PeopleCare, Rates, storm, weather | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Fall is almost upon us. As the leaves start to change, the crisp temperatures will soon follow. Before we know it, our winter clothes will need to come out and so will our heavy blankets. During this time of year, it is especially important to Consumers Energy to take care of senior citizens.

Top 10 Ways to Protect Senior Citizens During Cold Months

We have many payment assistance options and services to prepare seniors for unexpected weather conditions or life changes. If you’re 65 or older and the head of the household, you may qualify for:

  1. Shut-off Protection

This service provides protection from shut-off for seniors during the harshest months, Nov. 1-March 31. The plan requires

  • Initial down payment of 10 percent of your total bill
  • Participation in a Budget Plan that spreads out your annual energy costs into equal payments plus equal monthly payments on your past-due balance
  • TO ENROLL: (800) 477-5050
  1. Third Party Notification

With your written authorization, Consumers Energy can send a copy of any shut-off notice you receive to a third party like a consenting friend, relative or agency. While the third party contact is not responsible for paying your bill, they may act as a liaison between you and Consumers Energy.

  1. Winter Protection Plan (WPP)

Participation in this plan prevents service shut-off and high payments during the winter (Nov. 1 to March 31). The plan requires:

  • An initial down payment of 1/12 of any past due bills
  • From November through March, you’ll pay 7 percent of your estimated annual bill plus a portion of any past-due amount
  • When WPP ends March 31, you must pay your full monthly bill, plus part of the amount you owe from the winter months when you did not pay in full
  • At the end of the WPP period, you must make arrangements to pay any money owed before the start of the next protection period
  • Enrollment begins Nov. 1. TO ENROLL: (800) 477-5050
  1. PeopleCare

This program involves charitable giving to The Salvation Army from Consumers Energy customers, employees and retirees. The donations help people and families with emergency needs like food, clothing, transportation, shelter, home heating and medicine.

Check out more information about PeopleCare!

  1. Payment Arrangements

If you need more time to pay your bill, visit eServices to make Payment Arrangements or call (800) 477-5050.

External sources of assistance for senior citizens in Michigan:

  1. Call 2-1-1

This is a free phone service available to 99 percent of Michigan. The service links people with information or agencies that helps with utility assistance and other needs. Visit uwmich.org/2-1-1 for more information.

  1. The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW)

This service provides emergency help to low-income families and individuals in Michigan who are in danger of losing heat or electricity during winter. Learn more about THAW at (800) 866-THAW (8429).

  1. Home Heating Credit (HHC)

To apply for a Home Heating Credit, you must meet the income guidelines and own or rent the home where you live (excludes rented apartments and mobile homes). Forms are available wherever other tax forms are provided. The annual deadline to apply is Sept. 30.

  1. Elder Law of Michigan

Senior Citizens and people with disabilities can get help paying for the cost of important basic needs like food, medicine, healthcare, utilities, housing and taxes. For more information, call (800) 347-5297 or visit www.elderlawofmi.org/benefits.

  1. Other Energy Assistance Programs

Learn more about heating assistance programs provided by the state of Michigan for income-qualified households.

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Consumers Energy Interns Give Back to Michigan Communities

Posted on August 13, 2014. Filed under: Community, Community Profiles, Consumers, Corporate Giving, Education, employee, energy, Environment, Events, History, In Your Community Q&A, incentives | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Consumers Energy interns volunteered all over Michigan this summer! More than 130 interns volunteered statewide, part of the annual Consumers Energy Intern Challenge. This event involved splitting interns into teams to make a difference in their communities. From fixing up houses, to teaching children about electricity, to planning a party for an elderly community, interns made a positive impact this summer.

A Sea of Blue in Your Community

Consumers Energy interns spent hours doing service learning projects at 27 different charities and organizations in Michigan including:

Screen shot 2014-08-11 at 1.28.15 PMScreen shot 2014-08-13 at 1.58.38 PM

After all community service projects were completed, the teams came together to present their volunteer efforts to a panel of judges. The team with the most creative impact in their Michigan community was named the official winner of the 2014 Intern Challenge.

Consumers Energy congratulates team Trivium for their hard work this summer. The team, consisting of Tobin Tarantowski, Caroline Major, Jazmine Gaymon, Maxwell Madden, Jai’shon Richmond, David Rodriguez II, Joseph Kotecki, Daniel Jarratt, Rebecca Gerth and Megan Grohnke, performed three different service projects for the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center, City of Jackson Parks and Recreation Department, and the Jackson County Department on Aging.

We aim to hire interns who take pride in caring for the communities we serve.

Find out more about how Consumers Energy gives back by searching #CEVolunteers on Twitter and Facebook.

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In Your Community Q&A: Charlie Graham, Frankenmuth City Manager

Posted on December 21, 2010. Filed under: In Your Community Q&A | Tags: , , |

Frankenmuth, Michigan is a city of about 4,800 people. The city is known for its festive Christmas atmosphere. Consumers Energy provides gas and electricity to the city. With Christmas coming this week, we thought this would be a great time to talk to Frankenmuth City Manager Charlie Graham.

How long have you been city manager in Frankenmuth?

I’ve been city manager here for 31 years. My first day on the job was October 1, 1979, and that was exactly 20 years after the Village of Frankenmuth became the City of Frankenmuth. My 30-year anniversary coincided with the city’s 50-year anniversary which we celebrated last year along with many of our friends and neighbors throughout Saginaw County and surrounding communities. My tenure as city manager in Frankenmuth has been very rewarding. Moving here from Pueblo, Colorado with my wife, Ann, in 1979 was one of the best decisions of my life.

Tell me a little about the history of Frankenmuth.

The Community was settled in 1845 by Lutheran missionaries from the Franken (Franconian) area in Germany (an area in the northern part of modern day Bavaria). The German word “Muth” means courage, so the city name Frankenmuth means “courage of the Franconians”.  The Frankenmuth area remained a magnet for other Germans from the same region who came to this area and established the nearby communities of Frankentrost, Frankentlust, and Frankenhilf (now Richville). The German migration to these four colonies was initiated as a mission to spread Christianity to the Chippewa tribe.

Frankenmuth is a city of about 4,800 residents and is located in the southeast quadrant of Frankenmuth Township. It became a village in 1904 and a city on October 1, 1959. It is about 3 square miles in area and is wholly surrounded by Frankenmuth Township with whom we have enjoyed a great relationship over the years. We have cost sharing agreements for police protection, fire fighting service and code enforcement, and we have an agreement whereby we share space in the same municipal building. The township offices are upstairs right above my office.  Also, we collaborated years ago to create an urban growth boundary around the city within the township for land use planning purposes. This allows interested property owners to follow an established process to annex and develop their property as part of the city. And, it enables the township to pursue its policy of farmland preservation and to protect its valuable rural landscape.

Frankenmuth is known for its festivals and festive Christmas atmosphere.  Tell me about tourism in Frankenmuth.

Well, as you said, we are a very popular tourist attraction in the state. In fact, each year we are visited by 2 to 3 million tourists from around the area, the state, the nation and the world.  Frankenmuth is one of the top tourist attractions in Michigan.

Of course, anyone who comes here has to enjoy — at least once — the marvelous chicken dinners served by our two large restaurants: Zehnder’s and Bavarian Inn. Hundreds of thousands of tourists share a meal here every year and enjoy the shopping inside. But, as you can see, there are plenty of wonderful shops in Frankenmuth where you can browse and shop and just enjoy the day. There are also many other great places to eat and share an adult beverage with your friends. One of our other premier attractions is Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland.  Wally Bronner, one of the icons of this city, died in 2008, but his name and reputation lives on, and the theme of keeping “Christ” in Christmas continues as a very high priority for the entire Bronner Family.

Christmas is certainly one of the top draws in this city. But we also offer many other festivals throughout the year.  The list is long but some of the tourist favorites are:  Snow Fest, World Expo of Beer, Dog Bowl, Regional Hot Air Balloon Championships, Bavarian Festival, Summer Music Festival, Auto Fest, Snow Fest and Oktoberfest. There are lots of things to do in Frankenmuth!

If you’ve never spent time in Frankenmuth, there is no better time than now to visit. But if you can’t make it this Christmas, you are welcome anytime of the year.

What about Frankenmuth as a community?

Interestingly, the work and family ethic that prevailed when Frankenmuth was a small, German migrant community is still very strong today. We are a conservative, hard-working city that cares for its families, its community and its neighbors. That has not changed in all the years. We have strong Christian values that have similarly remained part of the fabric of this community since its inception when it was a mission post to the Chippewa Indians.

We are proud of our community. But what we are especially proud of our schools. The Frankenmuth school system is one of the top school systems in the state. Many families choose to live in Frankenmuth to take advantage of our outstanding school system. Frankenmuth is also blessed with some other strong businesses including Frankenmuth Mutual Insurance, Star of the West Milling Company, Memtron Technologies and Air Advantage. 

A great deal more information is available at the Frankenmuth Chamber of Commerce web site, www.frankenmuth.org and the City of Frankenmuth web site, www.frankenmuthcity.com.

Anything else you’d like to say before we conclude our discussion?

Thank you for this chance to talk with you about Frankenmuth. We are a family-friendly community of hospitality. Please let your friends, neighbors and customers know that they are always welcome to the community of Frankenmuth. We welcome you to come for a visit, to come and live here and to come and establish a business here.

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In Your Community Q&A: John Henderson, Mayor, City of Ludington

Posted on December 6, 2010. Filed under: In Your Community Q&A | Tags: , , , , |

Ludington, Michigan is a city of more than 8,300 people located along the shore of Lake Michigan in the northwest corner of the state’s lower peninsula. Consumers Energy  provides electricity to the city. We appreciate Mayor John Henderson taking a few minutes to answer some questions about Ludington.

What attracted you to this area and influenced your decision to move here?    

My wife Penny and I have lived here most of our lives. We have found Ludington to be a great place to raise our family; it’s a safe and wonderful place to live, work and play! Having Lake Michigan to the west and the magnificent state park to the north only adds to the beauty of living in Ludington!

What are the major challenges facing Ludington in the next 12 months?  

As most communities with reduced tax revenues and a declining tax base, trying to maintain city services without raising taxes will be the biggest challenges facing the city itself.

The other equally challenging concept facing Ludington is continuing to develop an environment where businesses will continue to grow and be successful, but also an environment where businesses outside of Ludington will look at what we have to offer as a community and expand or relocate to Ludington.

What are the three keys to keeping and attracting new businesses to Ludington?  

One way is to welcome them and work with them as a partner to create a united environment where we are striving for success for all. Secondly, continue to look for ways to help make them successful through improvement grants, tax incentives and working with them on city issues.  Third, show them that Ludington is forward thinking and moving forward as an exciting place to not only visit, but also live and work as well.

What is the City doing to encourage energy conservation and efficiency?  

 We are continuing to look for ways to reduce our energy demands, but have already taken steps to become more energy-efficient. Over the last year we have installed automatic light switches in areas such as the Ludington Fire Department and City Hall; this helps us reduce our electricity usage in areas where lights have been left on when not being used. We also have taken additional steps and installed new energy-efficient lighting in buildings such as the Ludington Fire Department. Recently, we have talked about potentially installing new, energy-efficient streetlights throughout Downtown Ludington. We will continue to find more ways to become more efficient.

We have also incorporated energy efficiency into our community events as well. Last year the City of Ludington, with help from local businesses, built a New Year’s ball for our annual “Light Up the Lake” New Year’s Eve celebration — which is currently the largest New Year’s ball in Michigan and has over 6000 color-changing LEDs.  

If someone had a day to visit Ludington, what would you tell them to do?

As I mentioned, Ludington is a beautiful place to visit, live, work and best of all PLAY! While Ludington is frequented mostly during the summer, we have many exciting things that happen year-round for people to do and see. My advice would be to walk through our wonderful downtown to enjoy some of the unique shops and restaurants. Spend the day at the beach, enjoying the fresh water of Lake Michigan. You can bring your skateboard and try our skate park at the beach or sit and enjoy the sunset from our sandy shores or take a walk out to the lighthouse on the break wall. We have million dollar sculpture park in Waterfront Park, which is nestled between two beautiful marinas and is the perfect place to watch the historic S.S. Badger dock at its home port here in Ludington. If you are looking for some excitement, come to one of our many events like our Freedom Festival Fourth of July celebration, Gus Macker basketball tournament, one of our Friday Night Live street parties or come back in the winter and enjoy our annual New Year’s Eve celebration and ball drop! As you can see, Ludington is an exciting place and there is always something to see and do!

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